DOCNA Champs or Xterra Nationals for 2011? I keep going back and forth. Of course they're on the same weekend. Strum is qualified for DOCNA Champs already and I'd love to go next year and try to make the finals. Qualifying for Xterra Nationals will be much more difficult and I'll probably have to travel out of state to get enough races/points. The other problem is that some years it's very competitive, you can't just show up to 4 races and finish, you have to be in the top placements to get enough points. Other years you don't even have to do 4 races. Nationals are in Utah next year and I'd love the opportunity to race there. Who knows where they'll be in 2012? Jonny laughs every time I bring this up. 'Of course you're going to DOCNA Champs, isn't it obvious? Agility is your thing,' he confidently tells me. He's probably right but still, I can't help wondering what sort of shape I could whip myself into if I had the proper motivation. Maybe the compromise is to set the goal of qualifying for Xterra Nationals but going to DOCNA Champs. If I do manage to qualify I won't be taking somebody else's spot, they'll give it to the next person in line if I tell them I'm not going so there's no harm done in trying. But it's awfully expensive to do 4 races, especially if I have to travel out of state for one of them (points are given for placements and you can enter up to 4 races for points, a set amount of women with the most amount of points in my age group qualify). And it's a lot of unnecessary pressure. I love to race but not to the point of the training taking over my life. Thankfully September 2011 is a long way off.
Meanwhile I've been practicing away with Strummer. Tuesday was a handling exercise with just jumps. A huge octagon of jumps and you run from one jump to the jump on the opposite side of the octagon then do a 225 degree turn and run to the jump on the other side again. Work your way around the octagon with dog on left then dog on right. The octagon was very big so it was great practice for balancing forward and turning cues. Strummer and I struggled with it but in the end I had a better feel for my timing and cues. Then Friday we worked with a single straight tunnel and went through a bunch of the recall to heel type cues that I did back when we were learning jumping with one jump. Mary Ellen Barry had an article in Sept.'s Clean Run I think (I don't get Clean Run anymore but my training partner had it) and we followed her exercises. There were more that eventually added jumps in but we never got to those. Strum whizzed through them with little problem but they were good practice nonetheless. I was especially happy with how calm he was while my training partner's dogs were running. Fast dogs charging through straight tunnels are a big trigger for him but I think because we spent an hour and a half doing the same tunnel that he became 'bored' or maybe less interested/obsessed as time wore on. Was great to see him approaching a somewhat relatively relaxed state by the end of practice anyway.
Sunday I was on my own out at the practice field so we worked on some more dogwalk turns and weaves. I was hoping that we'd finally had a 100% success rate but looking at the tape I'm not sure. Two of the reps are iffy and one you can't see if his back feet hit because I'm in the way. I'm tempted to put it at one hit and one miss for the iffy ones giving us 5/6 or 83% for contact performance. Then there were two turns that he misread and/or that I miscued. Mostly I was pleased though, there was no obvious leaping and I felt like he was getting the hang of turning. I moved the tunnel forward of the dogwalk ramp exit in an attempt to get a not so sharp turn off the dogwalk but he's still turning too sharply and making me cringe. It's the one place where the running contact is turning out to be less safe for him than the stopped and I'm not sure what to do about it other than not do the move during the games and only do it the couple of times a weekend during Standard and maybe stop entering North American Challenge until I can work out a way to train him to do it safely. I wish it wasn't such a common move in DOCNA, you can be sure to see it at least once or twice if not more during any given trial.
DOGWALK 11-14-2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.
(click 'DOGWALK ...' link for larger view)
When I arrived at the field I noticed a weird set-up at the dogwalk. Someone must have been working on running contacts and come up with a unique method. It's not something I would try myself because it's way too many props for me but I'm always interested in other people's training ideas so I filmed it.
On the one hand it looks almost dangerous but on the other hand I have no idea how the set-up was being used or the size of the dog so who am I to say? Interesting anyway.
Bundled up for a coldish bike ride yesterday on the trails out by the Rez. It's harsh going from mid 70s to high 30's but the sun was out and I was happy enough that the trails were dry and I didn't have to resort to the back country dirt roads just yet.